Best finishes for a rental/best way to get a house rented fast

13 Replies

I own one rental right now close to downtown DC. The tenants have said they may start looking for new jobs out of the area in the fall and I'd like to consider a modest kitchen renovation when they go.  The kitchen is fully functioning and in solid shape. But I wonder if some white cabinets and stainless steel appliances would make it more desirable. 

The townhouse is overall in a stellar location within the city, has 2 parking spots, laundry, is walkable to 3 metros and downtown DC, has a sizable patio, a dry storage shed that can fit bikes etc, and features that overall make it a desirable city rental for the right person who doesn't want a building. However, it sits across from where a 6 acre (multiple city blocks) property stood that was known for high levels of crime and I believe that is what has made it very tough to rent out over the last two turnovers. The property has been torn down in the last few months and the land is slated for a major redevelopment so now my hope is that its a bit easier to rent out. But I've been burned by vacancy a few times and would love any insight into whether other investors think a modest renovation is worthwhile to make it more desirable or if I should save my dollars. Comps are a bit tough because its apples and oranges- there are a few small blocks of houses surrounding this one (none currently rentals) and most of the rental units nearby are in high end buildings with amenities.

Also, my plan is to stage it and get professional photos this time around which I didn't previously.

Thank you for any insight!

@Alexa S. The kitchen looks nice and clean. I don’t know that I’d really do much. Maybe you could convince me to paint the cabinets... but I don’t think a kitchen reno is going to get you better or higher paying tenants or get it rented quickly.

I’ve been surprised at how little renters (families sometimes excluded) really use the kitchen. A clean, functional kitchen seems to be all they are looking for. And while they might say they want stainless, I’m not sure you’ll find many who will pay the extra $50/100/mo for them.

I don't think renovating the kitchen will increase your rents. If you did something I would maybe paint the cabinets white and replace the counter top with a darker color. I'd leave the appliances as they look good.

What do other rentals in the area look like?  The reasons to do renos are: things are in poor condition, will need repair in the very near future (easier to do when it is vacant), it will get you more rent, reduce turnover, rent it faster.

You could have the cabinets refinished or paint them. If you pain the face and end plate along with the doors, make sure the cabinets are cleaned with TSP (it strips off grease), lightly sanded and you use an enamel paint or something suitable for cabinets. If you do a white, the white range hood will blench in. The rest of the appliances look good.

I think your kitchen looks fine as is.  I like the wood cabinet look.  If you felt like you had to do something, consider a granite countertop.  I can't tell from the picture if the countertop is a "plain vanilla" countertop or not.  A countertop upgrade might give the kitchen a little more pop, but probably won't be of any real practical value in renting faster or for more.

Your biggest problem is probably that you're allowing the tenant to leave in the fall, which is a generally slow season. You should make your next lease end in April, May, or June so you can find your next tenant during the summer months when demand is significantly higher. With higher demand you can get better-quality tenants willing to pay more.

Professional photos are great for high-quality homes but I don't think it's necessary. I have 300+ rentals and all my photos are taken by me. What gets more traction is a quick walk-through video, 1-2 minutes long. Make it bright, use a wide-angle lens, and just walk through.

Check out this free video training from Virtually Incredible. 

@Alexa S.

Hi Alexa,

I think to tie the oak cabinets and appliance colors together, Dark laminate counter tops, greige walls in the whole unit, and dark hood to match the range.

Really though, you should find out what your close by competition (who has lower vacancy) looks like and compete against that.

Good Luck!

Kitchen looks fine, if you need new countertops go with the granite look formica, you could do granite for a more durable finish.  If you need new appliances of course replace them but it doesn't look like you need them. Don't paint the cabinets. That style painted will look like oak painted cabinets.  It is work and it won't get you more. Paint the room a less yellow color and if those cabinet knobs are bright gold maybe change them out, it won't get you more but it will make things look less dated and it is cheap and easy.

@Alexa S. Just paint the walls a light greige. Tenants want their place to look updated and modern. Gray is still the trendiest neutral. Depending on the wall color in the living area, maybe put a nice coat of light greige there too...if it doesnt clash with the floor etc.

@Marian Smith , @Colleen F. , @Michael Simolke , @Scott Mac , @Nathan G. , @James Mc Ree , @Theresa Harris , @John Underwood , @Anthony Dooley , @Mike McCarthy :

Thank you to each of you who responded to my post. I appreciate the insight and wisdom each of you provided, and the chance to learn from so many of you with much more experience.  Thank you all for weighing in. I'm much less inclined to make any big changes now!

Yes, but small changes can make difference between renting immediately and lagging on the market.  Clean, on trend neutral paint colors and replacing anything with a yuck factor...eg, old lady pattern tile above cooktop can be covered with bohemian Middleaatern style tile decals for an immediate pop of trendiness. I actually cannot see what those tiles look like, but you get the picture.  To rent a property fast lookers must feel they have to move or lose.  And they have to care if they lose out.

Swap that range hood out to a microwave style that matches the appliances, grey ish wall color, dull off white ish cabinetry, darker countertop. That would be the max I would recommend as well.

But that range hood needs to go.